Lookin’ Back, Movin’ Forward: The End of MediaMouse.org

Almost ten years ago, a group of people fed up with the way things were going in the world and in Grand Rapids, Michigan started meeting. Inspired by the excitement surrounding the World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in Seattle, Media Mouse formed as a group that sought to distribute information about under reported issues–globalization, corporate control, Latin America, and U.S. imperialism–to name just a few.

In the early years, that meant organizing a wide variety of campaigns and projects–protests, independent media festivals, speakers, rallies, documentary showings, zines, and more. Like many groups that formed in 1999, Media Mouse rode the wave of energy that followed the successful WTO protests in Seattle and made globalization and corporate power an issue here in Grand Rapids. We also did local work: we built connections with other groups pursuing social justice, targeted area lawmakers, and organized in support of alternatives to motor vehicle transit. Again, like many groups of the era, we moved into anti-war work following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and had an arguably important roll in that movement. We posted regular updates about protests on the Internet and launched one of the first blogs in Grand Rapids to keep people updated about what was happening in Iraq and in the ant-war movement. We continued the work of that earlier blog–The People’s Alliance Bulletin–when we launched a regular blog at MediaMouse.org in January of 2004.

Since 1999, the political context has changed greatly–gone is the excitement of Seattle, gone is the sense that anti-war work could end the Iraq War, and gone is the administration of President George W. Bush. Granted, Bush’s replacement–Barack Obama–has proven to be every bit as disappointing as we would have expected, yet much of “the left” is still struggling with how to deal with the Obama phenomenon and has been largely paralyzed since his election. In addition to political changes, the Internet has changed dramatically since we started blogging back in 2003. Now there are innumerable places for people to get left/progressive news and a wealth of technologies that make it increasingly easier to do so.

In this context, it’s hard to see where MediaMouse.org fits into the current struggle. To be sure, there is plenty to be outraged about and plenty of things to fight for and against. Everything that we ever wrote about–environmental destruction, inequality, racism, etc–continues to persist and likely will for quite some time (especially if we don’t step up to organize against these things). However, locating where MediaMouse.org should be in those struggles is difficult. Stepping back from the daily task of writing and maintaining the site, there are no easy answers to those questions. At this point, I’m convinced that MediaMouse.org–as it has existed at least–doesn’t have much of a place. In a lot of ways, I think we failed at our main goal–which was to motivate people to take action in their communities around issues that they care about in order to help strengthen the struggle to a new world. We rather simply told people how bad everything is and rarely inspired substantive discussion about how we could move forward.

Moreover, underlying these questions about the where MediaMouse.org fits into the broader struggle are the particulars of the project. MediaMouse.org has no clear and quantifiable strategic or political goals, making it next to impossible to determine our direction or measure any “success” we might have. All too often, we jump from one issue to the next with no real continuity and are all to willing to write about whatever we feel like, with no real connection to what folks need or want out of an alternative media project. Similarly, the project is almost painfully dysfunctional–there is no decision making structure, there are all sorts of problems with work distribution, no accountability, emails go unanswered, and almost all of the work is (and has been) done by one person. To add further insult to injury, if the project is not sustainable when it comes to its actual work, it’s even less so financially. Ultimately, the internal problems are such that to abandon it–and start over if needed in the future–is the only thing that really makes sense. Trying to “fix” things would be an uphill battle that at this point we don’t have the energy to pursue. To be sure, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from the numerous mistakes that people involved with MediaMouse.org have made over the years–hopefully sometime soon we will be able to share some of those lessons to prevent people from making the same mistakes again.

At this time, I’m confident in saying that MediaMouse.org has outlived its usefulness. Internal problems coupled with an inability to respond to the changing political context, has rendered this project largely ineffective. That said, we’re quite proud of much of the work we have done over the years, whether it is reporting on under reported issues here in West Michigan or traveling across the country to cover large mobilizations against trade agreements. There is a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which has been the opportunity to hear that we inspired people–however few they may be–to act to make this world a better place.

With MediaMouse.org no longer taking up so much of the contributors’ time, we will be in a better position to be able to act in that capacity and to move forward from a place where we are unhindered by the baggage and responsibilities associated with this project. To that end, we are excited to see where the future takes us–and excited to make room for others to fill whatever gaps may be left by our departure.

In the end, we just want to thank everyone that ever read what we wrote, contributed to the site, or otherwise helped make this project work to the extent that it did.

In Pursuit Of A Stronger Struggle For A New World,

– MediaMouse.org

March “Best Of”

In case you missed them, here’s what we think were the best articles on MediaMouse.org in March. As always, there is plenty here to get you outraged, frustrated, or upset about the state of the world.

However, while the news presented on this site is frequently “bad,” we encourage you to see it as an invitation to action–we cannot simply sit back while these things go on. Get involved with a group working to change the local community or the world or start your own project. With so much “bad” in the world, there are plenty of opportunities for each of us to use our own unique skills and talents to make something better.

The Economy



Police, Prisons, and Brutality




Book Reviews

Amy Goodman in Grand Rapids in 2004

In order to spark some interest in the Amy Goodman fundraiser for Mediamouse.org that is happening on May 10, here is a video of Amy Goodman’s last lecture in Grand Rapids (when she spoke at Fountain Street Church):

Also, as a reminder, Amy Goodman will be speaking on May 10 about her new book,

Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

7:00pm (Doors at 6:00pm)

Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ

4010 Kalamazoo Ave SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49508

*** Doors open at 6:00pm, Goodman speaks at 7:00pm. Admission is a sliding scale of $5-$25 for Mediamouse.org. Please bring cash, we cannot accept credit card and/or check payments. ***

New Resources on Immigration and Military Recruiting

Media Mouse, along with the local group ACTIVATE, have produced two new educational resources for groups and individuals organizing for social change in Grand Rapids. As part of their campaign to counter military recruiting, ACTIVATE has produced a small booklet titled The Truth About Military Recruiting that examines a variety of issues relating to military recruitment including the class nature of military recruiting, the treatment of women within the military, the treatment of veterans, the myth of money for college promoted by military recruiters, local alternatives to military service, and organizing ideas. The second resource is a pamphlet titled Migration is a Human Right: The Truth About Immigration in the US. The pamphlet was created using research conducted by ACTIVATE and Media Mouse in response to the immigrant rights movement as well as the organized anti-immigrant movement by the far right in West Michigan. The pamphlet is designed to be given to people who have no knowledge about the history of immigration to the United States or the contemporary realities of immigration.

Both pamphlets are available online and are also being distributed at events where ACTIVATE has a table.

Help Promote Media Mouse

Over the past six years, Media Mouse has grown quite a bit. Whereas we used to do occasional videos on public access television and distribute flyers, we now reach over 100,000 people per month through our website. We are produce original, researched independent media that people are unable to find anywhere else in Grand Rapids. As a result of our work, our visibility has increased significantly, but we always need help promoting the site.

To that end, we have put a few flyers online and are asking folks to help us promote mediamouse.org. It could be as simple as telling your friends about the site, linking to it from your blog/website/myspace/whatever, or putting up posters around town. If you have further ideas for promoting the site, contact us.